By Robert Wilson
Jackson Prep’s Jon Marcus Duncan – the dean of MAIS soccer coaches – is back on top.
Duncan won his 28th state championship as his Prep girls defeated MAIS defending state champion Jackson Academy 2-0 for the MAIS Division I title Monday night at JA in Northeast Jackson.
Freshman forward Torrey Polk and sophomore forward Emma Reeves scored one goal each in the second half and eighth grade goalkeeper Maggie Bailey and the Prep defense kept JA scoreless.
Prep finished 13-7 overall and 13-3 against MAIS competition this season. JA finished 16-4-1 overall and 15-2 against MAIS competition. The two teams split during the regular season, JA won 5-0 August 30 at Prep and Prep won 2-1 Sept. 13 at JA. JA finished 9-2 at home, both losses to Prep.
Duncan won his 14th girls state title to go along with his 14 boys state titles in his 23rd year at Prep. He won 10 boys championships in a row from 2011-2020.
Prep’s win ended JA coach Phillip Buffington’s two state championship match streak over Duncan, his former coach at Prep. JA had defeated Prep in the 2021 boys final and the last year’s girls title match.
Then eighth-grader Caroline Weir scored a goal with 3 minutes to play in the second, 10-minute overtime period to give the JA girls a 1-0 victory to end Prep’s two-year reign as state champions last season.
But Prep finished as the winner Monday night. Polk put Prep up 1-0 three minutes into the second half when her kick bounced off the back of a JA defender into the goal. Reeves, off an assist by senior Gracie Atkinson, scored with 23 minutes to play to put Prep up 2-0.
Bailey and the back four of seniors Bradley Carter, Anders Morgan and Kate Ferguson and sophomore Caitlyn Blackwell kept JA out of the goal. It was Prep’s eighth shutout this season.
“This was a complete 80 minutes for us tonight,” Duncan said. “Everyone contributed. The intensity and enthusiasm were contagious tonight. The defense has been our backbone all year and tonight they were awesome. Maggie grew up over the season. She was so improved from last year. Maggie has a bright future ahead of her. Winning state championships never gets old. This is a special senior class. We were locked in all day.”
“I broke loose on the width, we played a 1-2, got the ball back to her and she created a goal,” Atkinson said. “Winning this game was the best feeling ever after losing the state championship last year. These are my best friends.”
Buffington – one of the best high school soccer players in Mississippi history when he played at Prep in the mid-2000s – was going after his fourth consecutive state championship. He had won two straight boys titles and one girls. The Lady Raiders had lost only one starter of last year’s state title team, added four new players and was the favorite coming into this season. “I thought the girls came and gave a great effort tonight unfortunately a couple of mistakes turned into goals for them,” Buffington said. “I’m proud of our girls not to drop their heads and kept pushing and fighting to find a way back into the game even after going down 2-0. Prep played a very good game tonight with very minimal mistakes so hats off to them for the team performance tonight.”